“Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Here at Street Psalms, our most transformative experiences have happened while walking the streets with urban leaders (“on the road”) and fellowship around a meal (“breaking of the bread”). This week’s lectionary text highlights both the road and the table as gateways to Gospel sight.
The road to Emmaus in Luke 24 begins in confusion and ends in communion. Along the way, there are a series of twists, turns and holy reversals that are the normative pattern of life inside the Resurrection.
Theologian James Alison points out that scholars have not been able to pinpoint the village of Emmaus. Perhaps, Luke is artfully suggesting that Emmaus is the metaphor for all the places in our lives that exist at the edge of Jerusalem. And perhaps, Cleopas’s unnamed companion is Luke’s way of inviting us to insert ourselves in the story alongside Cleopas as if to say, we are all on the road to Emmaus.
It’s also striking that Jesus appears to Cleopas and his companion as a stranger, or as Mother Teresa would say, “the distressing disguise of the other.” God has come, is coming, and will continue to come as the stranger among us. He reveals himself most brightly in the face of the forgotten and those who are least likely to be seen as Godbearers. This is the relentless truth of the Gospel.
Equally striking is that Jesus joins the journey to Emmaus as a student. He listens to the disciples “discussing” the events of the crucifixion. The word “discussing” in vs. 17 is the Greek word “antiballo.” Quite literally they were going “ballistic,” arguing intensely with each other.
It’s not long before the student becomes the teacher. Jesus re-narrates the entire law and prophets. Re-interpreting sacred texts is risky business, but this strange rabbi with a strange hermeneutic makes their “hearts burn within” (vs. 32). After a mind-blowing Bible study, Cleopas and his friend insist that the stranger be their guest for dinner. Then, true to Gospel form, the strange guest turns out to be a familiar host. Wow!
As host, Jesus uses precisely the same language that he used in the feeding of the 5,000 and the last supper.
“He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (vs. 30-31). Yes, all of life is being taken, blessed, broken, and given in love. This is the Eucharistic shape of life.
In liturgical traditions, the word “host” (as in the “host” offered at communion) comes from the Latin word “hostia,” which means victim. This is the interpretive key that unlocks Gospel sight and allows Cleopas and his friend to recognize Jesus. It is the victim who comes to us in the resurrection, forgiving us. It is the victim who walks with us on the road to Emmaus and becomes our teacher. It is the victim who hosts the meal of our salvation. It is the victim
who reveals the Eucharistic shape of life by which we see Jesus and all the other strangers among us.
Jesus, like the disciples who were blind to your presence until they dined with you in the Resurrection, we too are blind to your presence until you dine with us. You are the stranger among us, revealed as the loving host of the meal of our salvation. Open our eyes, Lord, to the stranger among us. We want to see and celebrate you at work in the world–creating, sustaining, and uniting all of creation in the meal of our salvation.*
*This Word From Below was originally posted on 5/2/2014.